This week I have been reminded of the great privilege we have of helping people. It is truly awesome to be able to come alongside someone and, whether through a conversation or some other tangible expression, be able to contribute to turning a life around.
In my experience as I attempt to help people, there are some valuable lessons I have learned that help me, especially since not everyone I help out will have a story-book ending. At times, helping someone can be draining, messy, unpredictable and full of surprises. Thus it is important to keep ourselves focused on our role and keep some guiding principles in mind. Here are a few I have been reminded of lately.
- I can’t always be the “go to” guy. Sometimes the best thing I can do in helping others is to not direct them to me but away from me. I realize that sometimes, someone else has a better skill set or more time to deal with the situation. The best way I can help, then, is to empower them to initiate relationships with some other key person that can walk with them. If I have a saviour complex or a need to be needed then I will fall into the trap of taking on everyone’s issues.
- I must be tuned into the voice of the Spirit. What I say, how much I say and when I say it, are crucial. Just because I may know the answer or have the solution, does not mean it is the right time to speak it. Words can hurt, bury someone or be confusing if I don’t speak timely words into someone’s life.
- I might just be a “one-lap guy”. People run many laps in life and my role in someone’s life does not mean “until death do us part.” I realize that God may bring me into a scenario for a period of time and then I must be willing to identify my time as finished and entrust God to hand the baton on to someone else. God may not use me in someone’s life to help them cross the finish line. If it’s a ten-lap race and I am involved in lap 4, I may not see the results I would like. I must realize I am part of a process, not necessarily from the start and not necessarily to the end.
- Sometimes the best thing we can do is ask questions. Often we think helping is counselling and offering up deep insight. Maybe so, but sometimes it’s the questions we ask, not the answers we give, that help the most. Questions help people understand themselves, their situation, and get perspective. Questions can be our way of helping people work toward a great solution.
As we learn to Serve Others Significantly, which is the second part of our purpose statement, the first part becomes even more important, “Loving God Passionately”. It is only as we stay connected with God, refreshed by His Spirit, counselled by His word that we can truly help people.